Christoph Schiller/Carlo Costa

December 19, 2023

Spinet and Drums
NeitherNor n/n 022

Tour de bras tdb 90063/inexhaustible editions ie-060

Challenging the national stereotype of his birth place, Italian percussionist Carlo Costa, who has been a New Yorker for almost two decades is anything but a volatile, grandstanding player. His preference is for lower case, minimalist sounds and these discs show off this affiliation to its best advantage. Both duos, Interspace couples Costa’s percussion and objects with the bass clarinet, synthesizer, speakers and objects of Québécois Philippe Lauzier. The same sort of set up is used on Spinet and Drums with German Christoph Schiller creating his sounds from the small, upright keyboard with Costa using his idiophones. Neither reaches pitches must beyond medium or tempos much past andante. However the key to both discs is noting how with broken chords and gradual harmonic changes lasting impressions are created.

Sometimes, as on Interspace’s four variants on “Sincronia Vaga” Lauzier’s sustained bass clarinet lowing and interspaced tongue slaps are contradicted enough by Costa’s carillon-like slaps and bell ringing to suggest an altogether new refrain. Coupled with the constant synthesizer murmur layered whooshes, puffs and shakes expand the exposition past horizontal evolution to affiliated judders that affirm tonal and rhythmic ambiguity. By “Sincronia Vaga III” the percussive sector is reinforced as spinning top-like clatters, wooden clave-like raps, bond paper-like crunches and unattached cymbal pops enter the mix. Transformative textures are emphasized on “Sincronia Vaga IV”. Melodic cells involving clarion reed flutters and singular drum kit echoes inflate the formerly flat-line voltage drone and then supersede it so that emphasized clarinet split tones and idiophone clatters and pops add flashes of sound color to what was previously a monochrome narrative.

Set up in a nearly equivalent fashion, the eponymously titled companion disc is even more minimalist and horizontal. The three “Card Pieces” unfold infinitesimally reluctantly as Schiller’s spinet resonations include string buzzing, feathery plucks and strums. Costa’s microtonal responses among intermittent silent pauses emphasize widening tremolo buzzes and reed resembling scratches that emanate from many parts of his kit. Nearly twice the length of the preceding tracks, the concluding “Sottobosco” adds other timbres to the duet. Yet these chain rattles and dissected single key picks for instance are notable only because novel sounds become more prominent. The initial expression of wood, metal and string stress remains. Textures and dynamics are changed so gradually that tonal consistency is emphasized. Engrossing without exactly pinpointing its altering evolution Spinet and Drums as much as Interspace show how restrained understatement can result in as profound programs as any involved with emphasized melody and rhythm.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Interspace: 1. Sincronia Vaga I 2. Sincronia Vaga II 3. Sincronia Vaga III 4. Sincronia Vaga IV 5. Soft Routine

Personnel: Interspace: Philippe Lauzier (bass clarinet, synthesizer, speakers and objects) and Carlo Costa (percussion and objects)

Track Listing: Spinet: 1. Card Piece I 2. Card Piece II 3. Card Piece III 4. Sottobosco

Personnel: Spinet: Christoph Schiller (spinet) and Carlo Costa (drums)